NFL team reports:
Our annual looks begin with the Giants, Browns and Texans. Can any quickly rise to contenders? Plus, key questions, depth charts and stats.
Three offseason questions facing the Giants:
Is going “all in” on Manning the smart move?
Team brass is committing to Eli Manning, at the very least for the 2018 season. The commitment is dependent on performance, especially with the presence of 2017 third-round pick Davis Webb and 2018 fourth-round pick Kyle Lauletta behind him on the depth chart.
General manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur believe Manning can succeed, and he’ll have no excuses with the pieces put in place around him. Nate Solder is the best left tackle he’s had since Super Bowl XLVI as part of a rebuild that includes guards Patrick Omameh (free agency from the Jaguars) and Will Hernandez (2018 secondrounder).
Saquon Barkley is potentially the best all-around running back in the Manning-led offense since Tiki Barber. If Odell Beckham Jr. returns healthy, Manning has a chance for a big bounce back at 37.
How are things between the Giants and OBJ?
Co-owner John Mara was offered optimism regarding Beckham’s long-term future with the franchise last week.
In his first public comments since the league owner meetings nearly two months ago, Mara said late last week that “it was good to see” Beckham at the voluntary workout program and he sounded far more confident in a contract resolution that will have No. 13 staying with Big Blue beyond this season than he did when he fanned the flames — intentional or not — of a possible departure.
“I wouldn’t say a sense of urgency (regarding a deal for Beckham being finalized before the season),” Mara said at the United Way’s Gridiron Gala in Manhattan. “The contract will get done when it’s supposed to be done. That’s a Dave Gettleman line, and I’m going to adopt it. All spring, all summer, as long as it takes.”
Asked directly if he believes Beckham will be a Giant long term, as he has asserted repeatedly in the past, Mara said, “I hope so.”
Trade rumors swirled around Beckham for about a two-week stretch on the heels of the NFL owners meetings when initial comments from Mara seemingly opened the door to the possibility the Giants would consider dealing Beckham.
Mara said no player on the roster was untouchable, and then circled back 48 hours later in an attempt to squash the debate that had taken over social media, the tabloids and talk radio.
“I don’t know how much more clearly I can say it, I don’t want (Beckham) to be traded,” Mara said about two months ago. “I want him to be a Giant. I can’t say it’s a 100% guarantee it will happen. Can’t say that about any player.”
Beckham’s presence at the training facility in East Rutherford, N.J., over the past month has served as a statement about his commitment to the franchise in his quest for a new contract, not to mention the respect he has gained for Shurmur in the short time they have known each other.
Will the pass rush come alive again?
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher has promised aggressive and relentless within a scheme that will be far more multiple and feature 3-4 fronts. The Giants were tied for 30th last season in sacks (27), and they traded Jason PierrePaul to Tampa Bay. Had things gone differently in the draft, they could have added juice to the pass rush by selecting Bradley Chubb. Instead, they went for the big offensive threat in Barkley.
Olivier Vernon will move from defensive end to outside linebacker, and the Giants are optimistic he can fulfill the potential of a position maxed out in Arizona by Chandler Jones last season.
Kareem Martin will likely be opposite Vernon, and while he can pressure the quarterback, he’s more of a stout edge defender against the run.
A dark horse will be thirdround pick Lorenzo Carter, who is raw as a pass rusher but his freakish talent should be enough to get him on the field early in sub packages. Expect the secondary to play a bigger role with Landon Collins moving around like a chess piece whom Bettcher can use to help apply pressure.
For the second time in five seasons, Eli Manning threw less than 20 touchdown passes, finishing 2017 with 19 in 15 games.